Physicians testified on Thursday during the trial of a Hastings man accused of raping a baby that the extensive wounds to a 9-month-old girl could not have come from an accidental "fingernail scratch," as the defendant claims.
Michael Frederick Schmidt, 41, is on trial in Dakota County District Court for alleged first-degree sexual criminal conduct.
Dr. James Wolpert told jurors that the baby was "split open" in the worst such injuries that he has ever seen in a child under age 2. He performed extensive reconstructive surgery, both externally and internally, said Wolpert, a pediatric urologic surgeon who has treated many children with traumatic injuries to their genital areas.
Jurors also heard a Hastings police detective's account of how, days after the April 24 incident, police went to Schmidt's house and found him hiding inside the trunk of a locked car with a rifle and knife.
The injuries happened in the Schmidt home after Michael Schmidt picked up the baby, who is related to his wife, and her toddler sister from a relative's home.
The name of the baby, who has recovered, and her parents' names are not being published because she is an alleged rape victim.
Thursday, jurors also learned of Schmidt's conviction for hurting another baby 16 years ago. The Goodhue County boy, then 8 months old, had massive bruising and swelling in and around his genitals.
Schmidt was charged with a felony in the 1994 case but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of child endangerment after authorities had difficulty building a case with a victim who couldn't yet communicate and a lack of cooperation from the mother, who at the time was Schmidt's girlfriend. They later married.
Though Schmidt's attorney tried to keep that information from jurors as prejudicial, Judge Joseph Carter allowed testimony about the 1994 assault.
Carter said both cases involved infant victims about the same age who had genital injuries but couldn't tell anyone what happened to them. In each case, Schmidt claimed the injuries were accidental.
Schmidt's attorney, Cheryl Warn, told jurors that the injury to the Hastings girl happened when Schmidt was changing her diaper while baby-sitting and she rolled off a couch. When he reached out to catch her, his thumb entered her, Warn said.
But Wolpert, the surgeon, said that neither a fingernail nor an entire thumb could have caused such a long and deep tear.
Dr. Carolyn Levitt, director of the Midwest Children's Resource Center, which treats abused children at St. Paul Children's Hospital, said the tear was "definitely not consistent" with a fingernail scratch.
"This is a very forceful penetrating injury," she said.
Levitt said that she not only saw the 9-month-old girl but that she also had examined the abused baby boy in 1994. Schmidt claimed the injuries came from bouncing the boy on his knee, but Levitt said such severe injuries could not have happened that way.
Goodhue County authorities permanently took that child away from his mother.
Joy Powell • 952-882-9017